Only a handful of models have achieved such success that their first name is all that's needed as an introduction. Christy - and there is only one - is a prime example, having spent decades breaking new ground alongside her fellow 'supers', including Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. In fact, so much intrigue still surrounds this group of women that AppleTV has just snapped up a new documentary that revisits those iconic runways.
"At a certain point, so much has happened and you've done so much that there isn't really one story that stands out," she explains of the supermodel era. "But, I remember the first of most things. So, my first big campaign: a Calvin Klein campaign. My first magazine cover. All the firsts. And, I can remember every person and every detail. Sharing those first experiences with people helps them stay particularly present in my mind."
The Californian-born beauty was scouted by a local photographer when she was 14 while out riding her horse with her sister in 1983. Her late teens and twenties were spent working with designers such as Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen, a career-defining period for her.
Today, fashion fans still pore over archive images of Turlington and her fellow supers, but for her, it's the famed images of Peter Lindbergh and Herb Ritts that remain her favourites.
"[Lindbergh and Ritts] were two incredible photographers whose imagery from that period will always connect me and the other models of my time to that time", Turlington says. "There is some pretty iconic imagery."
Where previously models were there to showcase the clothes, not their personalities, Turlington and her peers broke through, resulting in the now famous Maybelline contract that saw Turlington paid $800,000 for just 12 days’ work - one of the first contracts of its kind in the industry. In so doing, the 'supers' helped clear the way for the current crop of models that we know today, including Joan Smalls and the Hadid sisters, who are as well-known as the designers themselves. The key difference between the original supers and today's current crop is that Turlington and co did it all before the invention of social media.
Now, Turlington has over 949,000 followers on Instagram, so she is certainly no stranger to social platforms herself, but she's relieved that she didn't have to face the pressure of sites such as Instagram while working in the 90s'.
"There is a big expectation on models today [in relation to social media]," she says. "In some ways, they are only interesting to brands if they have a big following and there is an assumption that they're going to be doing a lot more posting about the brand. That stuff wasn't really built in to the work that we did back then."
"I can't imagine doing that," she continues. "I don't do a lot, so I can't imagine having that expectation. Right now for me, social media is fun, just mindless fun."
The industry has also changed in other ways, especially since the acceleration of digital media sites and the influence that 'see now, buy now' is having on fashion.
"There was a big time lapse back in the day," Turlington explains. "You would shoot for a magazine story and you literally wouldn't see it until it hit the newsstands three months later. I think everything is so much faster because of the digital revolution. You already know exactly what the cover of a magazine or an ad campaign is going to look like before you finish your day. That's a huge change."
Yet, in an industry that is often accused of constantly chasing the new (with more often than not younger talent eventually replacing previous household names in advertising campaigns), the supers remain part of fashion's identity. Turlington has is still integral to the vision of one brand in particular – Calvin Klein – which she has modelled for since the late 80s.
In fact, she is still the face of the classic (and perfectly named) Eternity fragrance, where campaigns (since 1988) have documented the evolution of a relationship between a man and a woman. "It was great at the time to be the face of a new fragrance," she recalls. "Before Eternity, Calvin Klein Obsession was the biggest thing ever when I was a teenager, so to be working with the brand as closely as I was with Calvin and to be part of their next big thing from start to finish was so exciting."
Despite the hugely saturated world of fashion advertising, the filmic black and white imagery still resonates today. Perhaps its allure can also be credited to its truly timeless concept, love, which continues to be explored and celebrated in the most recent campaign. This time, the captivating depiction of that enduring emotion sees Turlington escape to the sea with her real-life husband, Ed Burns. It's set to a rendition of Oh My Love My Darling, a song that will transport you back to the 90s' due to its famous inclusion in the film Ghost.
"We shot it last summer, so when I think about the shoot and what the images really represent, it's this time before Covid and the world changing," explains Turlington. "It feels like this really utopian kind of place."
Turlington says that the campaigns feel doubly special to her because she was able to work with her husband again. "The first [time we appeared together for Calvin Klein] was super memorable because we hadn't worked together before," she recalls. "The second time was in some ways so much easier because we could look at it as a kind of escape from our normal lives. It was really nice to go away as a couple and be forced to spend 24/7 together for several days. It's not easy to do in our lives these days. Although we were working, it still felt like really good quality time. It was special."
Speaking to Turlington, you might expect that decades in the blaze of the fashion industry would have had a defining influence on her, especially when it comes to her self-image. But, in her signature down-to-earth manner, it turns out that getting older has been the true catalyst.
"I've always been more of a 'less is more' kind of person and so I had a lot of that sensibility at the beginning of my career and I still do - probably more so now," she says. "At this point, I wouldn't try something that just didn't feel or look right for me or if I couldn't connect with it. Earlier on in my career, I did go through some phases where I would think, 'let me try this look on', 'let me see what it feels like'. Now, I just think I have a better sense of who I am and what I like and that doesn't have as much variation anymore. I think when you are trying to discover who you are and who you are trying to attract or appeal to, you change things. But, then there comes a point when you do things just because they feel good."
The same is true for her fitness routine, which has more or less remained consistent since her teenager years. Having always been sporty (running, soccer and horse-riding were a big part of her childhood, while a love of yoga came later as a young adult), fitness has always been an important part of her life.
"Honestly, it was really hard back in the day to find a gym if you were in Paris, which seems so strange to say in retrospect," she says. "Most of the hotels had these little tiny gyms and you had to be really motivated if you wanted to stay fit. So, I started running a little bit to help with jet lag and it allowed me to get out and see the places where I was working."
"Running and yoga are really my mainstays now. During Covid, it has been so great to have those outlets for dealing with the world. But, I've also gone on to do lots of marathons, so it's been fun to try and push myself and compete in a way as I have got older. Your relationship with fitness and wellness evolves like anything else in your life. I feel I have all the tools I need at this point."
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